Time and financial pressures placed on Sutton Council led the authority to agree an incinerator in Beddington Park, claimants in a judicial review into the matter have claimed.

Day one of the two-day hearing consisted almost entirely of evidence presented by the campainers led by Green party member Shasha Khan.

The morning started with protesters against the incinerator, to be run by waste company Viridor following the signing of a ᆪ990 million contract with the South London Waste Partnership, gathering outside the Royal Courts of Justice to show their strength of opposition against the plans.

The claimants case was based upon a two-pronged attack that Sutton Council was under pressure to approve the site as the contract signed in November 2012 allowed Viridor to take legal action against the authority it if failed to grant planning permission.

They also argue the site was central to the Wandle Valley Regional Park and should be returned to public use by 2023.

Sutton, the court heard, granted planning permission as it "urgently" needed to maximise waste diverted from landfill by 2017, even though EU and UK targets put that date at 2025.

Speaking on behalf of anti-incinerator campaigners was Ed Milibandメs wife; barrister Justine Thornton.

Ms Thornton told the court it was "striking" that officers at Sutton did not think the site should be used as an incinerator beyond 2023 prior to the signing of the contract with Viridor in November 2013.

Ms Thornton also told the court Defra cut its ᆪ220m PFI funding to the project as it felt an incinerator in the area was not needed to hit landfill targets.

Sutton, she said, granted permission for the site in May 2013 as it claimed there was exceptional and urgent circumstances to hit EU targets but the urgency had been caused by signing a contract with Viridor which stipulated an incinerator on the site by 2017 while EU targets were already in line to be met.

The court would learn, from extracts read from the contract between the parties, that the site must be operational by May 10 2017 and that, should Sutton refuse planning permission, Viridor could launch proceedings against the authority.

She said: "There's a date after which you are in last chance saloon otherwise you are in to revised progress territory and that creates an urgency clearly."

Miss Thornton said: "There's two significant features there's a pressure point on the local planning authority and there's urgency.

"That's where the urgency comes (not from EU targets)."

She added: "Beddington park is to be the centrepiece of the Wandle Valley Regional Park and is a strategy objective of the London Plan.

"It became so urgent you have to overturn the current provisos of the London Plan.

"Is it so urgent that you have to overturn that?"

The incinerator would be part of the South London Waste Partnership's (SLWP) refuse plans. The SWLP is made up of the council's Sutton, Croydon, Kingston and Merton. As part of this agreement the SLWP identified three sites where waste could be processed. These had no outstanding stipulations on them about returning to public ownership and were all owned by councils. Beddington Lane was not among these.

Mrs Thornton said: "Why did Viridor need to do a later very comprehensive assessment of 150 sites that could be up and running by 2017.

"The correct question is why is 2017 key?

"Is it key because of waste terms or is it key in contractual terms?

"We say it is the latter."

Saira Kabir Sheikh QC, counsel for Sutton Council, also advised the authority on the matter when it came before planning.

She told the court there had been many cases of officers discussing plans before finalising a decision as it helped speed up planning matters. She said:"It's ordinarily the case that parties will do that.

"There's no smoking gun."

She added that the London Plan, which states the site must form the centrepiece of the Wandle Valley Regional Park, only goes up to 2021 and therefore could not safeguard land after that date, saying 'that's not how planning works'.

Saira Sheikh said: "There has been waste management on the site since 1975.

"It's got a long history of being a waste management site.

"Other safeguarded sites don't have such a history."

Day two of the Judicial Review continues with further evidence from both Saira Sheikh on behalf of Sutton Council and David Elvin QC for Viridor.